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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Emery

Supply Chain Disruptions (...continued) plus workaround Tips and Tricks

I am often asked: are we are still in the middle of a supply chain back-up? And the answer is YES.

And... no, there is still no end in sight.

In fact, I have never seen anything like this in my entire career, and worse, it may actually be the new normal. Which means we better figure out how to live/work with it!

I have interviewed painters, millworkers, contractors, furniture vendors, etc about it, and they all concur. It spans the entire construction and design industry, with hardly a single material not being affected.

As a result, I have seen material cost increases anywhere from 30% - 400%. I recently had to order a few more pieces of a tile for my own project. It went from $4/piece back in August 2021 to $15/piece in January 2022.

A painter on a recent project had to drive to 10 suppliers, and even into the next state just to get enough Benjamin Moore Super White paint to finish the house.

My appliance vendor is quoting 6 month delivery times on appliances that we were historically able to get within a week, and furniture that used to be stocked, or at most take 10 - 12 weeks (if custom) is now 24 weeks at MINIMUM, and that might be being optimistic..

I am constantly explaining this to my clients and delivering bad news about delays and lack of availability. Meanwhile, I am having to explain the same constraints to my family, as my own renovation has been deeply behind schedule, and items I painstakingly chose have consistently not been available in the project timeframe.

For example, I normally take 1-2 trips to the tile store to make selections for clients before presenting. Recently, it took me 7 trips to find enough items I liked that worked together and were in stock!

Plumbing parts that go in the wall and are normally stocked took 8 weeks to arrive. This may not sound so bad given some of the other delays I listed above, but in reality it meant we were on hold until they came, as the plumber needed to install them, and pass the plumbing inspection before we could close up the walls and start tiling, etc.

So what’s a girl to do? While it hasn’t been easy, I have come up with some work arounds. I've had to be flexible, be creative and breathe. If you are finding yourself in a similar situation, here are some tips for you:

Sometimes deposits will put a hold on materials, or get you on the install calendar, and can be credited towards the final order, even if it changes. I found this out with California Closets. Their production dates were steadily increasing as we were working away at the designs. My salesperson thus suggested putting a deposit down as a way to secure a reasonable install date. This bought us time to keep refining the design for a few weeks longer, without stressing that the finish line was moving farther and farther out. We knew we were going to work with them regardless, and that any deposit we made would go towards the final design.

Research other brands you may not have considered. Sometimes there are other comparable options that are just as good. My solution for the Miele dishwasher with a 6 month lead time... I went with a Bosch. It is quiet, has a similar cutlery/utensil rack on top and stainless interior, a steam option for sanitizing, and gets great reviews. Done! Another option, if you really must have the one you want, consider purchasing an inexpensive place holder, and then re-sell it.

Be flexible and consider other sizes/configurations of similar items. On my project, I had hoped to use a Thassos mosaic on my guest bathroom floor. It is a beautiful, pure white stone, and I love how clean it looks and the way it sparkles from a distance. I tried numerous mosaic shapes and none were in stock. I remembered once on another project we had selected a 12 x 24” Calcutta gold tile, but we didnt like the look of the current lot, as there was none of the beautiful gold veining which brings warmth to that material. We decided to consider other sizes and found a 6 x 12 lot that was exactly what we were looking for, so we happily pivoted. In my case, it wasn't about lots, rather about timing, but it was a reminder to consider other sizes of the same material. I ended up going with a 12 x 24 Thassos tile. In the end, I think I might like it even better! With fewer grout joints, it will be easier to keep clean, and I had already secured a beautiful patterned tile for the shower walls which will be the real star of the show!

Figure out if some things can wait. If so, focus on what you really need to make your renovation usable/livable, and wait for other things you may really love and be willing to wait for.

Another option is to go the custom route. I did speak with a couple of upholsterers, and while it may cost a little bit more, their leadtimes were much faster than the showrooms and online vendors.

If all else fails, and you really need something to sit on, you can always rent some furniture, or buy something inexpensively on Craig’slist, NextDoor, etc for temporary use. These can be good options while you are waiting for those pieces that are worth the wait. And it also allows you to play with configuration and spacing!

One thing I have learned through the years, and have been repeatedly reminded of during these times, is when we are forced to pivot, we often end up feeling happier with what we came up with instead. Maybe its just human nature to help us deal with disappointment, but I prefer to think of it as being forced to open one’s mind just a little bit wider, step out of your comfort zone, and be flexible and creative.

I would love to hear some other ideas for workarounds in these challenging times.

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